Director: Michael Dougherty
Writers: Michael Dougherty, Todd Casey and Zach Shields
Cast: Adam Scott, Toni Collette, David Koechner, Allison Tolman, Conchata Ferrell, Emjay Anthony, Stefania LaVie Owen, Maverick Flack, Lolo Owen, Queenie Samuel, and Krista Stadler
Synopsis: A boy who has a bad Christmas ends up accidentally summoning a Christmas demon to his family home.
*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*
I became a fan of Michael Dougherty when I saw his great Halloween film Trick ‘r Treat. The film was funny, suspenseful and had some great moments of horror, but more importantly, it was a hell of a lot of fun. So like many, I was looking forward to him getting back behind the camera and what better way to get back behind the camera with another holiday-themed horror film. While Krampus isn’t as good as Trick ‘r Treat, Dougherty still keeps the same intense but fun holiday horror.
Krampus follows the Engel family: the somewhat down-to-earth dad Tom (Scott), trying to stay sane mom Sarah (Collette), typical teenager daughter Beth (Lavie Owen), youthful and holiday loving Max (Anthony), and Tom’s mother or as she’s called by Max, Omi (Stadler) who only speaks in German. They are joined by Sarah’s sister, Linda (Tolman) and her family of her loud and obnoxious husband Howard (Koechner), their bratty daughters Stevie (Owen) and Jordan (Samuel), son Howie (Flack), baby Chrissy and has no filter, Aunt Dorothy (Ferrell). They all come together a few days before Christmas to be together, and while the first night doesn’t go over to well – including Max’s letter to Santa being read aloud – family bickering is the least of the Engel family’s problems: the evil spirit of Krampus – the opposite of Santa Claus – has been unleashed and has made them his target.
For those unfamiliar, Krampus is actually based on a legend/folklore. There are many interpretations of Krampus, but most agree on the same thing: he’s a villainous, horned creature that punishes children at Christmastime for being naughty. The Krampus in Krampus like that as well, but instead of just going after the children he also targets the grown-ups, whether it be himself or using his fiendish helpers that include demonic toys.
Thankfully, Krampus himself – and the film – isn’t completely CGI. With the expectation of a handful of scenes – one of which is a fantastic scene that takes place in the kitchen– Krampus is all practical effects and puppetry. Which is a nice touch because it makes the creatures, visually, feel more real and extra terrifying once everything goes to hell. Again, if you saw Trick ‘r Treat, Dougherty different and unique style is inject here which gives Krampus some much needed fun and humor. It may not be for everyone, but it definitely works here.
I thing I applaud Dougherty for doing is making the film more than just a horror film. It’s a dysfunctional family film too. Krampus is a slow burn film, that does get a bit sluggish at times, but before all the horror elements start, we get to know the family, and yes, even get to hate a few waiting for them to get picked off. But, what Dougherty and the other writers in Todd Casey and Zach Shields do is give them each a different personality from each other that makes us still, somewhat, root for them. Krampus could have worked as a straightforward horror film, but it’s the extra bit of humanity and the family story that gives the film that extra bit of levity and makes it just a bit better. The other part that makes Krampus works is the comedy.
Veteran comedic actors Adam Scott, Toni Collette, David Koechner and Conchata Ferrell bring their A-game to the sharp and witted script and really deliver on not just their comedic lines, but their more dramatic lines too. The kid actors also fare pretty well with Emjay Anthony’s Max getting most of the screen time and focus. Finally, Krista Stadler’s Omi is definitely a highlight in the film. She doesn’t speak too much, but when she does you know it means something and is also part of one of the coolest part of the film as well, which I won’t spoil or hint at.
All in all, Krampus is a lot of fun. It’s got humor, suspense, horror, and a good dysfunctional family story that is served well by its great cast. It’s also filled with awesome looking and much needed practical effects and creatures that levitate the film to a much better place. While it’s not on the same level as Dougherty last film Trick ‘r Treat, Krampus is well worth your time and a nice holiday-themed horror film.
4 out of 5